Source:Echoes:Ch5:7:Lehi's dream - geography

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Cultural and Geographical Dimensions of Lehi's Dream: Geography

Cultural and Geographical Dimensions of Lehi's Dream: Geography

The scenes in [Lehi's] dream alternate between long, lonely stretches of desert crossed at night (see 1 Nephi 8:4–8) and regions of dense population (see vv. 8:21, 8:24, 8:27, 8:30, 8:33). Lehi also wrote of deep canyons—known as wadis—that were almost impossible to traverse (compare "a great and a terrible gulf" in 12:18 and "an awful gulf" in 15:28). After rains, the seasonal streams in the wadis fill with mud and debris (called "filthy water" in 12:16 and "filthiness" in 15:26–27).25 In contrast, Lehi described occasional green fields next to the desert graced not only by abundant water (there were already extensive irrigation works in south Arabia that supported a larger population than the one living there now) but also by lush vegetation represented by the tree full of delicious fruit (see 8:9–13).26 He saw heavily traveled paths leading to the green areas (see vv. 8:20–21) as well as "forbidden paths" and "strange roads" of the surrounding desert where the unwary would become "lost" (vv. 8:23, 8:28, 8:32). Further, Lehi's mention of "a mist of darkness" (v. 8:23) reminds one of the heavy mists and fogs that blanket the coasts of Arabia, especially during the monsoon season, including the place where the family most likely emerged from the desert.27

The dream is also true to other cultural and geographical dimensions of the family's world. For example, Lehi's dream began in "a dark and dreary wilderness" wherein Lehi and a guide walked "in darkness" for "many hours" (1 Nephi 8:4,8). Plainly, they were walking at night, the preferred time for traveling through the hot desert. Further, when Lehi reached the tree that grew in "a large and spacious field"—which field is different from the wilderness—he partook of the fruit of the tree and then looked for his family, apparently expecting to see them (see vv. 8:9, 8:12-14). This sort of detail meshes with the custom of family travel in the Near East, with the father going as a vanguard to look for danger and for food while the mother and younger children follow. When there are other adult members in a clan or family, the males form a rear guard, as did Laman and Lemuel in this set of scenes (vv. 8:17–18). Hence, in the dream Lehi was evidently not alone with the guide as they traveled. His family members were following him, but at a safe distance as custom required.[1]

Notes

  1. S. Kent Brown, "New Light from Arabia on Lehi's Trail," in Echoes and Evidences of the Book of Mormon, edited by Donald W. Parry, Daniel C. Peterson, and John W. Welch (Provo, Utah: FARMS, 2002), Chapter 5, references silently removed—consult original for citations.